Making ice cream through chemical reactions, exercising the basics of computer programming and taking care of the animals located in the Biology Department are just a few of the activities offered for local homeschool students through the annual “Homeschool Science Program.”
Offered during a few weeks of the spring semester, the program meets weekly on Thursdays from 4-5 p.m. Sigma Zeta Epsilon, AU’s chapter of the national honor society for science and mathematics, has been organizing the program since 2006.
“That inaugural year of the weekly elementary and middle school science sessions was the start of some good chemistry at AU,” said Dr. Scott Carr, professor of chemistry. “We’ve been blowing things up for over a decade.”
Under the leadership of Carr and other professors, AU students have put on the spring science sessions. According to Carr, the program is a unique opportunity for local students ranging from second to eighth grade “to participate in some science fun.”
Carr explained that the annual program is beneficial for all in attendance, including the AU students who offer instruction.
“It’s as much of a learning experience for the college students as it is for the invited kids,” said Carr.
Senior biology major Ellen Doss has been involved with the program for three years. This year, she has taken on significant responsibility as the homeschool science coordinator for Sigma Zeta Epsilon.
“The role I have now entails a lot of communication between the current members of the program, who sign up to teach lessons to nearby communities of homeschool families in math, physics, engineering, computer science, chemistry, biology and the homeschool community,” she said. “It is a lot of work—and extremely stressful at times—but the good definitely outweighs the bad.”
According to Doss, the program allows AU students to make an impact in the City of Anderson.
“I love that our members can teach what they’re passionate about to elementary schoolers and do such an amazing job. I love that we can also use our skills to help the community around us, which I’m a huge advocate of,” she said.
Doss explained that, by learning different aspects of science, elementary students attending the Homeschool Science Program are better equipped to make a difference.
“One lesson given by a biology student was about the importance of bees, and local honey was given out to the students so that they could taste the difference between it and generic honey,” she said. “So, not only are the students getting exposed to the important environmental science behind bees, but now they’re more apt to support local beekeepers.”
According to Doss, the goal of the program is to introduce young students to numerous different areas of science. From biology to computer science to physics, Doss explained that the homeschool students attending the program participate in a vast array of tasks and experiments.
“The activities the kids do range from measuring volumes, testing pH, doing chemical color experiments with various chemicals and a flame to test the color of the chemicals, learning how to take care of the animals we have in the biology department, learning to code computer programs, playing a real-life version of Angry Birds to learn projectile motion, density
experiments, heart rate experiments and the cardiovascular system, learning about DNA and the cell, ecology, botany and tons more,” Doss explained.
Students in the sciences, mathematics and computer science can join Sigma Zeta if they have sophomore standing and have higher than a 3.0 in the major.
“We are always looking for members for Sigma Zeta and helpers for homeschool science,” she said. “Don’t be shy about reaching out to us.”